Writing

Recently

A screenshot of Valheim with a sunrise coming through a thick, dense forest.

Like Christmas, I am always shocked at how fast February goes by, even though it’s the same length (except Leap Years) every year.

Here’s the latest.

Listening

News of MF DOOM’s passing right at the tail end of 2020 was the sucker punch nobody needed. The man was prolific as hell, and my paltry library of his material is only my beginning.

I recently picked up Born Like This and NehruvianDoom from Bandcamp, and a compilation of all Special Herbs Vol 0-9. With the latter collection, it’s fun spotting the beats that would appear later on his albums. It’s amazing how they stand out on their own, missing his lyrics and flow but feeling great in of themselves.

I played Axiom Verge back in 2018 (and I’m super excited for the sequel), but the soundtrack has been a mainstay in my rotation since.

I find myself regularly humming “Trace Awakens” either in my head or out loud.

I’m always on the hunt for new shoegaze and Deserta did not disappoint. I found them trawling through the “shoegaze” tag on Bandcamp under new releases.

It’s sprawling, dark, moody, and that’s the way I like my shoegaze. It’s easy to close your eyes and let your mind wander to the stars.

As I write this post, it's technically Bandcamp Friday. I'll have some more to share next month!

Reading

I’ve been playing a heck of a lot of Valheim (more on that later), and it’s got me finally reading up on Viking history and the mythology. My book of choice is Children of Ash and Elm The game does a surprisingly great job at being true to the “source material”, if this one book is anything to go by.

The author has an engaging writing style that keeps you reading. There is just enough of the mythology sprinkled into otherwise factual information. It strikes a nice balance.

The Vikings themselves did not keep much on their own history, but instead we rely on second-hand encounters from researchers, scholars, or travellers. Christian scholars in particular tended to look at Vikings as godless pagans, which makes it important to process their research with a careful eye.

An article I read this month which really resonated (and had a bit of a reckoning) is "Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden".

Women are encouraged to foster platonic, intimate relationships with other friends (typically other women). Men however do not (usually) possess these relationships. Bonds between male friends are weaker and tend to ignore feelings and emotions. Men depend on the women in their lives as our emotional dumping ground -- a place to go when we need to confront our emotional problems.

It's not normalized to express these feelings around other men. We are taught instead to conceal these feelings because they are not "manly" (toxic masculinity, in other words). This mindset leaves men without the tools to deal with these emotions ourselves, so we instead depend on women to help us. Showing weakness is a shameful in traditional definitions of masculinity, which further discourages being vulnerable.

I know from personal experience that I am guilty of this. I don't have close bonds with most of my male friends, and we almost never talk about our emotions, or what we're feeling, let alone how to deal with them. I will turn to the women in my life instead: my partner, my Mom, and female friends.

At the crux of this piece I think is a challenge to what it means to be masculine. Men need to change the script and ask ourselves what it means for us?

Watching

We recently discovered that with the Star acquisition from Disney that Futurama has showed up on the service. That warrants a full rewatch.

Here’s my favorite bit ever:

Playing

My mighty viking with the moon as a backdrop.

Without a doubt (and likely to my partner’s dismay) the majority of my time the past few weeks has been in Valheim. I initially felt like the survival aspects of the game weren’t for me, having had enough of it in Minecraft. What sucked me right in though was the sheer quality of this Early Access title (can you believe it’s a team of five people?). The aesthetic of retro, low-poly models combined with a modern lightning engine creates this nostalgic but fresh vibe that fits in a game of its kind.

Progressing in the game is done by destroying one of the five major bosses, with each one dropping a new key item that allows one to find new resources, or open doors into previously locked crypts. You enter the “Bronze Age”, then the “Iron Age”, and before long you’ll have your own blast furnace. It’s possible to build historically accurate longhouses, or go the other direction and build giant castles, or sprawling treehouse villages. The game is fine with you doing whatever strikes your fancy.

A group of us (6) decided to get the game on a Friday evening, and before I knew it it was 1AM. Then it was 1AM Saturday. It kept going on like this. I lived and breathed the game. It sucks you in quick if you’re not careful.

My cozy viking home.

Here are some screenshots of our journey to take down The Elder, the second boss of the game. His summoning location was far away from our little home of “Newheim” (which replaced our old village, now referred to as “Oldheim”), across the great sea. We built our first boat capable of holding more than one or two people and set sail.

A group of six hapless Vikings sailing their way to slay an unknown evil.

Our map showing the distance from our main base to The Elder.

After a day’s journey (which is about 30 minutes), we broke shore at what we called “Elderheim” (we have an incredibly clever naming scheme, if you haven’t noticed). We hastily built a small house and a portal to allow us to return to the island if we died (which we did, multiple times).

With our base deployed and our bellies full of food, we set out to summon The Elder and take them out. I don’t have any shots of us during the fight, but you can rest assured it was a delightful, flailing mess. We all died at least once or twice. We ran out of arrows mid fight and had to speedily drop them on the ground to share.

In the end though, we triumphed!

The corpse of the mighty Elder!

We’ve since taken down the third boss and are on our way to number four. The Mountain has proved to be a tough biome to survive, and if our brief excursion into the Plains has been any indication — the fun is only just beginning.

The severed head of The Elder attached to a sacrificial stone altar. With this we gain strange new magical powers.